Biden Pledges Better Nursing Home Care, but He Likely Won’t Fast-Track It

by | Mar 3, 2022 | Health

President Joe Biden’s top Medicare official suggested Wednesday that forthcoming rules to bolster nursing home staffing won’t be issued under a mechanism, known as interim final rules, that would allow regulations to take effect more or less immediately.

“While we want to move swiftly, we want to get comments from stakeholders,” Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in an interview about the overhaul Biden promised during his State of the Union address.

“Medicare is going to set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and that they expect,” Biden said.

But Brooks-LaSure suggested the administration’s sought-after nursing home changes are not considered urgent even as nursing homes and other long-term care facilities register shocking numbers of covid deaths. A KFF analysis estimated that more than 200,000 residents and staff members of long-term care facilities had died from covid as of Jan. 30, amounting to at least 23% of all U.S. deaths.

“When we do interim final rules, those tend to be things that are absolute emergencies,” Brooks-LaSure said when asked whether they would be considered for nursing home staffing levels, “or tight timelines.” 

The White House this week said CMS will first study the issue and then propose minimum staffing standards “within one year,” but officials have been otherwise vague about timing. When issuing regulations, federal agencies generally release a proposal and then seek public feedback before finalizing it. The entire process can take months or even years. But there’ …

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